Review by Karl Verhoven
It may fall under a new title of Batman: Streets of Gotham, but Hush Money continues the storyline Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen were developing from events in The Heart of Hush.
Hush, Tommy Elliot, is an insanely jealous former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, a surgeon who’s altered his appearance to resemble Wayne. The benefit of that is being able to masquerade as Wayne during a period when Batman was believed dead, and that’s a situation Dini also explores, looking into what’s happening in Gotham when Dick Grayson is operating as Batman. He keeps Batman away for the most part, the narrative carried by villains Hush, Catwoman, Firefly, Black Mask, Penguin, and Victor Szasz. The final story is a particularly deft example, following the rounds of a guy who calls himself the Broker, a fancy name for the person who supplies abandoned properties to Gotham’s nutty villains as hideouts.
Dini and Nguyen’s Firefly is extremely effective. In terms of Batman’s villains he’s strictly third rate, but Dini provides the unhinged mind of the man setting fires: “It all burns into the same gray ashes. I find something strangely beautiful in that”. Nguyen accompanies this with illustrations showing the sheer terror uncontrollable fires inspire in the public, while John Kalisz’s colour escalates this over sweeping scenes of Gotham aflame. Nguyen’s people are spiky, angular, and make good use of shadow, while his backgrounds are sketchy, sometimes elusive, but formidable. His only weakness appears to be feet. He avoids drawing them if at all possible, but when he does, they’re disproportionately small.
A smart piece of manipulation is developed before the end of Hush Money, an already clever plan subverted, and it counters Dini settling on pervasive darkness as the prevailing mood. Focussing on what the villains feel provides a consistently disturbing undercurrent, some sequences horrific. They’re grim people with appalling desires, and another moves to centre stage in preparation for Leviathan.